Photo by Henry Tseng.
Mothers — with all their earnest, loving intentions — can often be entertaining, and their advice can be an interesting mix of serious, silly, insightful and mind-boggling (sometimes all rolled up into one zinger you can’t wait to share with your friends). In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve asked fellow Asian American writers and artists to share the funniest advice they’ve ever gotten from their mothers.
Managing editor of Asia Pacific Arts
Don’t ever be afraid to get divorced.
Most of my good friends are single, independent, intelligent women who are making impressive dents in their careers. Yet, when we hit our mid-’20s boyfriend-less, some of our mothers started inquiring about our relationship statuses. You hear these parables all the time. Once you hit a certain age, all your friends will start getting married. Once you hit another age, the chances of getting married get more and more slim. Perhaps all the good men are taken. Perhaps when you get older, you realize you don’t need them anyway. And then how will there be grandchildren?
My mother wasn’t like that. That’s not to say she didn’t worry about me (she’s guilted me many a time by emphasizing that mothering and worrying are one in the same), but she’s always been much more worried that I’d end up with the wrong guy, rather than no guy. So, when my friends’ mothers were telling them to hurry up and find a good man to marry, my mom decided to give me a different piece of advice: Don’t ever be afraid to get divorced.
When she told me this, I probably laughed. Until I realized she was serious. At the time, I had never even had a boyfriend, so I hadn’t thought much about the prospect of getting married, let alone the challenges of getting divorced. It was also ironic because my parents are married. (I’d say “happily” married, but taking into consideration my ignorance of the inevitable ups and downs of a three-decade marriage, let’s just say “happily-enough” married.) But it wasn’t necessarily a story about her. It was a phenomenon she was seeing around her: women her age who were trapped in their marriage and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do anything about it.
What I realize now is that the crux of her advice isn’t really about divorce. It’s about never being afraid to re-evaluate. It’s about never feeling like the commitments of your past (or present) cheat you of your choices that could lead to a brighter future — even if it’s a future that temporarily unstable, burdensome, and difficult to navigate. At any age.
Now that several years have passed and I have a lovely fiancé who will soon be divorce-able (purely technically-speaking, of course!), I’m not scared of marriage. I’m not scared of divorce. I’m not scared of anything, really. I’m confident in my own choices. Yet, even if it all goes awry — let’s not pretend life is predictable — I know I always have the opportunity to make better ones.
Remember, there are no ugly girls. Only lazy girls.
— Said while lamenting the fact that she gave birth to such a beautiful girl who doesn’t put in the time and effort to beautify herself. Sometimes this is paired with the comparison to “a flower covered in dog poop” (and I’m still not sure whether it is a Chinese saying or just something she made up).
Check out more funny advice in our Mother’s Day series:
Celebrating Asian Mothers: Funniest Advice My Mother Has Ever Given Me